Thursday, August 28, 2008

Airlines child lap policy

Like many other moms, I was under the misconception that if flying with a child on your lap were considered unsafe then the airlines just would not allow it. Was I wrong. It took a close call with my daughter before I realized how wrong I was all along.

Like all women, I enjoy a good bargain and being able to avoid having to purchase a plane ticket for a child under two and save several hundred dollars only added to the excitement of traveling with a small child. My son and I took over half a dozen plane trips together all without incident and had a great time traveling around the U.S. when he was a baby. Six years later when my daughter Anna was born and we took our first flight together, we were in for a little surprise.

We were traveling from Duluth/Chicago/Phoenix. We had made it into Chicago and had about a two hour layover there for our connecting flight to Phoenix, when major thunderstorms began passing through the central U.S. Our flight was continually delayed as the afternoon went on and we did our best to stay entertained at the airport while staying close to our gate in case our flight should start to board. The delays lasted into the evening hours and at about 8:00 p.m. both my children (Aaron, then 7 and Anna, 7 months) fell asleep on my lap. They had only been sleeping for about 15-30 minutes when the started to board the flight. I hated to wake up both children and have them very crabby so I just say in my chair waiting until the last call to board.

As they got down to the last group of passengers they made an announcement that they had overbooked and were offering ticket exchange for giving up your seat. Since the kids were sleeping so soundly and had missed their naps, I was in the perfect position to give up our seats and take the "bump". With a lap child traveling and two free ticket vouchers I was as good as traveling free ! And little did I know that I had may a decision that would likely have ended up disasterous had we boarded that plane.

About an hour later another flight to Phoenix was on its way the children were starting to stir from their uncomfortable sleeping positions, so we boarded the next plane and we were off. There were still some small storms and turbulence on the flight and so the plane attempted to route around them as best as it could and still maintain some sort of time schedule (for me we were arriving about 10 hours late anyway). I had Anna on my lap the entire time and things were proceeding normally, when the captain announced some turbulence ahead. As we all buckled in, I wrapped my arms around Anna's tummy and held on to my wrists. It didn't take long before we hit a small bump and I was taken by complete surprise when that little bump took all my strength to keep her close to me. Her bottom lifted off my lap a good six inches and I was absolutely shocked at the force it took for me to keep her from hitting the roof! Luckily for us we had only that one small pocket of turbulence that we hit.

When we arrived in Phoenix, I learned that the original flight we had been booked on had hit a terrible storm and the jostling of the passengers caused 10 people to hospitalized. There is no doubt in my mind that Anna would have been one of them had we gotten on that flight. I was so thankful for the change in events that put us on a different plane, and have never again flown with a child in my lap.

For more information about how the airlines started allowing lap children and other people's stories, read Anya Clowers book "Jet with Kids".

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